3D Printing Unlocks the All-in-One Robot

We talk a lot in this blog about the ways in which 3D printing is bringing concepts to life that would have once been considered the stuff of science fiction and while there are plenty of other tantalizing topics to talk about in the field of 3D printing, we simply couldn’t pass this one up.

After all, it’s robots. Little, walking robots.

The robotics industry is growing every single day and researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are finding 3D printing to be an invaluable tool in simplifying the construction of these machines.

New research from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) delivers the first-ever technique for creating these robots with a 3D printer. The process is innovative because it allows for the printing of solid materials at the same time as their liquid counterparts.



Photo: Robert MacCurdy/MIT CSAIL

According to the research, the team at CSAIL’s process allows them to print robots in a simple, one-step procedure that eliminates the cumbersome assembly that accompanies so many other robotics construction projects. This is especially true when focusing on the liquid component which is often messy and requires additional manual labor to clean once the process is finished.

“Our approach, which we call ‘printable hydraulics,’ is a step towards the rapid fabrication of functional machines,” CSAIL Director Daniela Rus told MIT News. “All you have to do is stick in a battery and motor, and you have a robot that can practically walk right out of the printer.”

What’s next?

You might think a team that has not only solved the simultaneous printing of solids and liquids, and the elimination of assembly in robotics, would be tempted to rest on their laurels. But that’s not the team at CSAIL. They still think there’s plenty more that can be done to increase the efficiency of their production and much of that improvement, they say, lies in pairing their system with future updates in 3D printing technology.

“Accelerating the process depends less on the particulars of our technique, and more on the engineering and resolution of the printers themselves,” Rus, told MIT News. “Printing ultimately takes as long as the printer takes, so as printers improve, so will the manufacturing capabilities.”

Those of us in the 3D printing industry know that the new tech is being developed every single day to grow the capabilities of 3D printing. And we can’t wait to see what CSAIL and other talented 3D printers everywhere do with it.